Saturday, April 29, 2006

Up to our elbows in dye

I did a direct application dye session with the AH class yesterday. I hadn't done any painting for a while, for a whole raft of reasons but mostly because I never think I am very good at it. This is principally because of the dyes I use which are quick and easy, but not easy to mix and create more subtle colours. However, I had to demo as it was a while since the class had done it and their memories seem to be even worse than mine......

Dyeing day

For whatever reason, they pretty soon got the bit between their respective teeth and were very enthusiastic about it all. For once I made them weigh and mix their own colours - I don't think anyone did much playing around with adding one colour to another although I did tell them how to go about it. It got a little messy anyway, but fun.

Dyeing day

The steaming bundles always look very unprepossessing to me, and I had advised them to leave theirs until they got home to unwrap when completely cool. Ha! Fat chance.

Dyeing day

Having said that, I do find it pretty irresistible myself. And the tops, skeins and warps all looked nice - by coincidence, most people had used fairly complementary (in the untechnical sense) colours, although one person did do a beautiful autumn shades range on some mohair top. Towards the end of the day, a couple decided that they couldn't bear to waste the dye residues in the cups and put whatever side by side. The results were actually rather nice.

I really enjoyed the day, and I think the class did, too. They are very kind to me about my technical deficiencies, and I do try my best to give them sound information, but I am not a mathematical or even very precise person, so it is always a tad flying by the seat of the pants style. Still we survived.

The weekend is all up in the air. We may not get to the seaside with the mater after all, She had a little fall (I have checked and it really was minor) and does not feel too confident about the enterprise. I suppose I am not surprised - I had kind of detected signs of talking herself out of it before this happened. It's sad, but there we are. We shall see how it goes, spend time with her anyway of course.

When I get back I need to get to grips with alpaca in a hurry, for the next class. I'm going to try some blends. I now have another six classes booked, so have to come up with six more topics for them - I just had an email from Amazon to say there is a copy of Handspun Revolution winging it's way to me, very timely as I was wondering about doing "funky yarns". I haven't seen this book and am prepared to be disappointed, but who knows? Otherwise, all suggestions gratefully received as after five years or so I am struggling to keep things fresh. I might try wire/bead knitting and crochet, at least as a subsidiary. And I shall need a nice gentle do-it-in-my-sleep one for the class five days after we get back from the States in November! Still, plenty of time to think that one out.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


It is a glorious morning and there is birdsong all around the house. Wrens, for all they are so tiny, have the biggest and most tuneful voices around here - well, except for the blackbirds. In all the places we have lived, there has turned up eventually an evening blackbird. Sitting somewhere above, it has been on a chimney stack, or once a weeping willow in an adjacent park, singing and singing as dusk fell until it grew too dark to see and the voice faded into the night. It has taken a lot of years for it to happen here, but at last it has. In fact, for the past year or three, we have had blackbirds nesting in the ivy on the wall near where we sit out, and I am imagining that they are now feeling sufficiently confident to sing, or perhaps more likely, that there are now other blackbirds around that need to be told just whose territory this is.

(And I do know that we have to be vigilant where the cats are concerned. Middle-aged and toothless (in one case) as they are, baby blackbird would still be irresistible.)

So why am I burbling about blackbirds? To remind myself of the joy and beauty of the world, and sometimes it is hard.

Out of the blue in my inbox this morning was an email from the husband of the cousin closest to me in age. They moved overseas just over three years ago, and since then I (and other cousins) have had little or no contact with them, sadly. A year ago I emailed, had a reply and a care parcel of opera DVD's, available for peanuts on the border of the country where they now live. Then nothing again. And now, today, a positive budget of catch-up, that in all honesty I would perhaps rather not have had.

I was angry with the tone of the email at first, but having had some time to think, I can maybe understand why it was as it was. My cousin has cancer - secondaries - and is I think, not likely to live. That is a lot to take on board out of the blue, and I think that the email was written to make it as easy as possible. Of course, it isn't easy. This is the cousin closest to me in age, that I saw most of when we were young women, and although life and geography has drawn us apart - more apart than I would have chosen - I still feel close in a lot of ways, and this is.....hard.

It is also life. In that now immortal phrase, stuff happens. We can't stop it, and only a few, best placed, and have any effect at all. Thousands of miles away, that ain't me. Hence, birdsong.

As well as the other things. Meetings and phone calls with friends, and with folk of like mind. Both of which I have been doing in the last few days, with a bead group to go to, the morning book group (an absolute joy this time with a short discussion on what we did and thought when we were feminists* lo those many years ago). Plus a pleasant visit from an old college friend.

I've been purposefully working away on the ex crochet jacket which is now a knitted jacket-in-progress, plain, blocky, touch of colour at the edges is the plan. Started the back first as being the largest block, and am more than halfway up. The seashore amulet bag - the bag is finished and I am starting on the embellishment. I'm not sure, will have to wait until it is complete before making up my mind if I am satisfied with it or not. I will have sufficient beads to make a bracelet of some sort, too (an ensemble!) and plenty of charms for that and another something or other if I am not content. And I have a direct application dye class all prepared for tomorrow.

Come the weekend, we are spending some time with my sister, and taking our mother to the seaside. That is, shall we say, curate's eggish. But I'm not going there. Well, I am - to the sea - and will bring back the photos to prove it. But you know what I mean.

I might even do some housework. Which would make me feel good. Not, I hasten to add, because I like doing it as all the stupid research has been interpreted as saying. I ask you!! (Justified.) Of course we feel good having done some housework, because it is done and we don't have to do any more for a while.

Hey, equilibrium.


*I do not mean to imply that I (we) are no longer feminists, but the consensus was that we change, times change (not necessarily in the way that the media might have us believe, neither for the better), and like old soldiers generally do we tend to simply fade away. At least, that's today's explanation for it, I might yet come up with a better.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A window on another world

OK, lets try yet again.....

I met Joy four years ago in San Francisco. The last couple of years, she has written an amazing blog about her travels. Now she and her wife Lena are in Nepal. I haven't posted a link before, I'm not sure why - I knew some would already have access to it, maybe didn't want to jump on any bandwagons. But her latest post is so vivid and much to learn from it. And maybe I have some sort of superstitious feeling of the more who read her, the safer they will be. Silly. But read anyway.

Blogger is playing silly bs (that's bplural not BS.) So this post might end up plural, if it ever coughs up the original. I'll edit eventually, if so.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

And just why did nobody TELL me?

Tell me what, pray?

We were invited to a friend's for lunch today, and as she lives just down on the main road and it has been a gorgeous spring day, we decided to walk the mile along the valley road. Now, neither of us had done this for quite a while, and what with the sunshine, my slightly gammy foot, the lambs, the butterflies, the flowers....we kept stopping and looking around.

So that was how we came to be paused by the house about half-way along, looking down on to the meadow below. "Oh, more sheep" said the DSM. "Or not" rather reflectively.

What we have, in our own valley, is alpaca - at least three, almost black, moorit if alpaca can be called moorit and a pale one. O yippee, says I, my favourite. The next thing is to get to talk to the people who own them and find out what they do with the fleece.

The friend we were lunching with was slightly shamefaced, as she had known for ages - ages in the sense of a year or three - and had not actually thought to tell me. Humph.

OK, so we wandered back home, the sun was shining even more, so we had a tray of tea out in the garden. And very nice it was too. Still is, the mogs are still out there.


Dopey, because rather full of dinner.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Not what I am supposed to be doing

Whilst I do know that we shouldn't say things like that - no "shoulds" or "oughts", you know the kind of thing - I am very definitely supposed at this very minute if not sooner to be feeding the cats. So if this ramble is suddenly interrupted by horrible screams and slightly bloody heel-marks dragging across the screen, you will know that I Have Been Dealt With.

But I have had a day when stuff has got in the way a lot of the time - stuff I "had" to do, rather than what I actually wanted to do - and I think for once my pampered little darlings can wait for all of thirty minutes even if their stomachs do think their throats have been cut.

Is this getting a little too gory? Blame it on watching another epi of CSI whilst doing some ironing. That's how I motivate myself to do this particular chore, and in my inimitable convoluted logic, justify watching such programmes. Which is too dam' gory - I don't have to justify anything whatsoever! (Oooh, look! A rare sighting of a couple of exclamation marks! Golly, I feel much better now.)

I did eventually get to doing some beading. I am working up the beach, very soon will be at the point where the foam comes rushing up and catches unwary feet. That will be fun. Then, I shall dive in to blue ocean and see where that takes me.

And speaking of which (the best segue I could come up with, which is not saying much) driving to the supermarket yesterday, another of those lovely things that have to be done from time to time) the radio was playing "Streets of Philadelphia", which I love. Got me to thinking about other place songs, and of course "Twenty four hours to Tulsa" came to mind, what with the recent demise of Gene Pitney. I've always loved that, too, in fact have the 45 somewhere. It brought to mind long highways with the bright lights of gas stations and malls and motels even before I got to see them. There are a lot of very evocative "place" songs - "Wichita lineman", "Californication" (sorry, that just kind of crept in there, but it is none the less in the same genre, to my mind) - I could go on. But when I fell to pondering British ones, I could do Celtic, like "Loch Lomond" or "Over the sea to Skye" but fell down a bit on English. "Drivin' down to Bromsgrove", or "Last train to Woverhampton" maybe? Er - nah. "The long and winding road to Dulwich"? I could go on, and indeed, may very well do so at a later date, this could be very creative, not to mention might pass the time whilst doing some of the damn chores.

The DSM is home, and as if to justify the name has made a pot of tea. It would only be polite to go share it with him.

He fed the cats, too.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

I've been to the seaside again

Isn't this a great, windswept beach?


This is Dunwich on the Suffolk coast. We spent the Easter holiday at Southwold, and called here on the way home. One of those places, we think, where there is an older village out in the North Sea, eroded to a watery grave many years ago. Actually, Cromer is another one. The east coast is continually resisting efforts to be controlled and contained by humans, and does what it wants and should do, which is to let its basically sandy shores be washed away.

Anyhow, the weekend was by and large a great success. We had a wonderful day on Saturday visiting Minsmere, and saw lots of new and fascinating birds. Marsh harriers, a Cetti's warbler, a nightingale (I did try to persuade the DSM it was merely a dunnock, but I had to concede eventually....) Loads of avocets, ducks various, a ringed plover and very unexpectedly, a shore lark. What a super place - must definitely return.

Southwold was a delight, too, very unspoiled, unreconstructed. We had a couple of nice meals on Friday and Saturday evenings, the latter only marred by me embarrassing myself totally by waltzing out of the pub on Saturday and promptly falling over. I had not, repeat not had all that much alcohol, and I am quite sure that what I had consumed was what saved me from worse injury. I didn't see a (marked with white paint) shallow step, and went over on my left ankle, dammit - the right one is the usual one to go, now I have two dodgy ones. Fortunately, too, no-one actually saw me go crashing to the ground, so after I had collected myself and managed to clamber to my feet, we hobbled home through the dark and spooky churchyard.

The birthday lunch went very well. Something unspeakable happened at the far end of the table where the baby was, but her long-suffering parents dealt with matters briskly and unobtrusively, and all was well after that and she behaved impeccably thereafter. We all tramped back for tea, fizz and cake (well, hobbled in my case...) and then sat and embarrassed the younger members of the party - always fun - for the rest of the afternoon.

We had a bit of a grockle around Southwold itself, had visited Oxburgh Hall on the way down and then Framlingham Castle on the way home, with Snape Maltings in between times. Somewhere or other we found an alpaca farm, too - about the only fibrey thing I lighted on all weekend.

The B&B was...well, a triumph of style over content. A lovely Edwardian villa, beautifully decorated and furnished, but with the second most uncomfortable beds I have ever slept - or not- on in my entire life, and a cunningly economical notion of how to do a vegetarian breakfast - simply leave the bacon out. As for the bathroom....well, we won't go there, save to say that swinging the cat would not have been a possibility, and that the DSM and me couldn't have even attempted our usual mutual teeth-cleaning routine.

Still, very glad we went - have never visited this part of the east coast before, and it is lovely. More images:

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Oxburgh Hall, an early tudor gem. I could live somewhere like this very happily!

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I had wanted to see this for ages - the sculpture commemorating Benjamin Britten on Aldeburgh beach. Definitely cool.

Britten sculpture

And whilst being all historical, here is Framlingham Castle, once the stronghold of the Earls and Dukes of Norfolk (one of those families that managed against the odds to hang on to their influence and their heads, mostly but not entirely, through various reigns and regimes to the present day. Although this place was handed over to others centuries ago. H'mm. Maybe that's how - bribery....


Southwold - note the lighthouse in the town - from the pier.


And beach huts, one of which I would love, but would need apparently £20 - 30,000 for the privilege. I think not.

Beach huts

Lovely to get to the sea again.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Too much socialising, too little stuff

I have a nasty feeling that isn't grammatical. Blame it on the need for tea.

Yesterday - a "girly" day with my sister (WTF?? We never did that before...) We both got new "dos" or is that "does"? Anyway I Am Proud Of Her - she's gone purple. Our mother no doubt thinks I am a bad influence, but I Don't Care. Anyway, we spent an awful long time yacking and being dyed, so I didn't have any time to do much at all beyond a little spinning. Still, it was worth it, to paraphrase.

Today, after getting only very slightly hysterical over trapping the cats, took them to prison and then caught a train to Leeds where I had another very nice social time, good lunch and spent very little money. Oh, sad. Got home somewhat knackered from the unaccustomed citifying to find...

That lambs have been put in the meadow opposite the house the other side of the river!! Yippee - I though I was going to be out of luck this year as we had sheep in there for several weeks not so long since. But there they are, bless their little cotton socks, so when we get back from Suffolk, I can do some serious ovine observation.

I've got a couple more websites for my niece's doings - some hilarious pieces of work, I have to say. Very witty. But no time to sort it out now. I might just treat you to a bit of heavy metal as well - and much to my surprise, I rather liked what I heard.

I may have finally lost it. Grin.

Back on Tuesday.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


I sidetracked myself from the seaside amulet bag by deciding to finish this knitted cuff that I started last Thursday. It is a huge improvement on the first one I attempted, mostly because I realised that it would look neater if I slipped the first stitch on every row. And also because I realised that I needed to count stitches obsessively to avoid too much wavering around the edges. What shifting dimension that you see is caused by tension alone - lawd, ain't that the truth!

Anyway, I rather like this, so much so that I want to do more, but these have even for me just not quite enough challenge. So I paid a quick visit to Amazon yesterday. I am being so bad at the moment, and do not care one jot or tittle. Call it Spring Fever. I do need to sharpen up on fastenings, although I think my improvised loop-and-bead mechanism will work ok.

Please ignore all blotches on the hand. It's the camera angle. It's the light. Nothing whatever to do with....well, the a word.

knitted wire bracelet

knitted wire bracelet

While I worked on this, I listened to podcasts. Now, I am a great fan of podcasts. Usually. But I seemed to light today on a couple that got right up my nose. fibre ones, too, I haven't been paddling in the shallows of anything untoward. For one thing, both the ones I tried were done by people (and I am not going to say which ones I am talking about) who had voices that reminded me of that woman on Friends whose name escapes me for the know, Chandler's girlfriend who keep saying "Oh. My. Gahd." and got us all at it. Well, me, anyway. Not a good sound.

Then there was the content. Meandering, fibre-lite, not particularly informative, and if you don;t get that you need humour or something else to take its place, and actually not all that accurate in some bits. Ah, well, I suppose it was bound to happen.

Spent the rest of the afternoon taking up a skirt from the New Summer Collection - and ironing. Blech. Might be virtuous, but boring. Ipod helps.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Heads up to Freyalynn

I finished it! It's yours on Thursday if you approve of it.....

freyalynn's spiral

This is a better photo, I think. If quirky.

freyalynn's spiral

I do enjoy doing spirals, but I have projects piling up on the stocks that I am itching to get too, so good that this is finished - a just reward, mind you, for those machine knitting blanks...I'm going to see if I can't screw up my courage to do the seaside amulet bag next, but I am being rather daunted by the thought of yet more teeny tiny delicas. I could use a magnifier of some sort, but then I get to see the finger nails and cuticles in all there glory, and I am not sure that I can stomach that.

And, about time for a gratuitous cat pic.

de boyz

They are clinging somewhat at the moment. We are leaving them alone a bit too much. Plus it is cold. There might also be a nasty big cat out there who duffed up poor old Neelix (recovered now, but a few painful-looking holes in strategic places.)

They got left alone all day yesterday whilst we had an expotition to Manchester. In the vain hope that we might have a warmer season, I decided that the wardrobe needed reviving. This is not always an easy task - one possible place tends to go in for clothes that are too smart and citified, not to mention too yellow (amongst other bright shades); the other flies in quite the opposite direction. By dint of waving far too much plastic around town, I was actually quite successful - and the nice thing is, most of it is cotton and linen - well, linen and viscose, anyway.

For once style and me converge a bit - I wanted long flowing skirts, and by george, there they were. These are the sort of thing I could make, but until I get around to sorting out a new sewing machine - which won't be for a few months - then it will have to wait. Anyway, I did enjoy the clothes-shopping bit (I'm funny like that) but Manchester - any town - is not really my idea of fun most days. One of those occasions when Starbucks are a blessing rather than a curse. There is always one around, just when the noise and bad air gets to you. A nice reviving cup of chai went down a treat.

OK, I had better go and get cracking in the kitchen. I promised the DSM a quiche for supper, and he does so love to disprove the old maxim that real men don't eat quiche, so I mustn't let him down.

No other fibre or bead progress of any kind to report. What a slacker!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Am I just too picky?

Have overly high standards of behaviour?

Doing the Tesco run this morning, I rounded the end of the aisle and swung into the next one at the same time as one of the young male employees - who was busily resettling his balls to the exact position he wanted them to be. (Please imagine that last italicised - but for some reason best known to its little self, Blogger won't let me do it.)

So, am I wrong to feel grossed out? If I need to adjust a bra strap, or knicker elastic, or heaven forbid, scratch my arse, then I do it discreetly if not in hiding, and certainly would not blatantly reach up, down or all around in full view of absolutely everyone. Perhaps I am wrong - perhaps this is my middle class middle-age wrong-headed values, and we should all let it - them - all hang down or out or wherever is comfortable whenever and wherever.

What is the world coming to?

Going backwards in time - yesterday, all day, was a meeting of the coven. One of the less-common daytime, shared lunch experiences, we haven't had one for a while and it was good. The Fabulous Freyalynn knelt down for hours before her knitting machine and did white blank pieces for various of us to paint at some later date, which was definitely above and beyond. she did later on sit to do it which made my knees feel much more comfortable at least. I spent all day stringing beads on to wire to do some more knitted pieces. I am going to have another crack at a bracelet, make it more narrow this time. The kit one I got is too wide, and I didn't pay enough attention to the edges, not to mention the number of stitches, so it doesn't really please me. My two cards have been very well received, and have served well as practice bits. I need to move on to something more challenging.....

And apart from a little spinning, the only other thing of any note that I have done is to do a little more of the new-version, now knitted, jacket. This is because I had the WI talk on Wednesday, and I as usual allowed myselkf to get nervous about it.

It went fine, well in fact. But I did the daftest thing. ~I couldn't remember what fee I had said I was charging, and had expected to be asked. When the Treasurer did come up to me, she asked me what my expenses were, to which I replied that I wasn't asking for any as I had only driven a mile up the road...she then muttered something to her companion about cheque signing and I though, oh goody, she has a note of what the fee is.

Going out the door to leave some little while later, I suddenly bethought me - far too late, of course - that I hadn't been paid. It was then that I realised that when she had said "expenses", which I had though meant "travel expenses" - she had meant my fee for the whole shebang. As one might say, o buggrit.

It was far too late to do anything about it, by my lights anyway. And in some ways, I don't mind too much because they were a really nice group, and I might even join in a couple of months time. It had given me a good opportunity to meet them and see what sort of things they got up to (although judging the garter stitch knitted squares was nearly a challenge too far.....) Plus. I Have Learnt A Valuable Lesson.

Driving back from the supermarket this morning, I was for no particularly good reason reminded of a story from my misspent youth. I might have the photographic evidence...if so, watch this space, I'll post it.

And, now I realise that Blogger is on one of its go-slow days, and I don't have spell-check either. So - tough. Typos and all.

Monday, April 03, 2006

On hearing the first cuckoo in Spring

I awoke to a beautiful morning - blue sky, lots of sunshine, birds singing. Of a sudden, that familiar call, that unfailing harbinger of spring, better weather and the time to enjoy the pleasures of the out-of-doors rang out. That squawk that quack, that slamming shut of the window that indicates the barking mad neighbour has bestirred her from her winter torpor.

Oh, joy.

Actually, when we first moved here, there were a great many cuckoos (the real sort). From mid-May, rather later than in the south of England, their calls rang all around the valley, and if we went for a walk in one particular direction, we could almost certainly be guaranteed to see one, and very often several, which isn't so usual. Nowadays, if we hear the odd half-hearted "cuck" we consider ourselves lucky. No idea if it is the weather here or in Africa, or something to do with farming practices, or what, but there is a noticeable difference.

However. How about on sighting the first slug of Spring? Nah, not got the same enchantment to it, but none the less, there was one outside on the path this morning. Squashed, praise be, maybe the DSM got it on his way to the car. And considering that it is turning very chilly, indeed, we have just had a brisk hailstorm, what a silly slug to go a-wandering.

So, all my jauntings are over for a week or two - rounded off a ehctic week with a lovely evening out up near Ripon having dinner with Oldest Best Friend and partner, which was tiring but good. The DSM was in work yesterday, and should be now until Friday, but as he has another work-derived cold, may take to his couch again. I Do Hope I Do Not Get It. I do have a talk to give to the local WI on Wednesday, but that shouldn't be too arduous or dramatic. This means that I can turn my attentions to fibre again.

The crochet jacket. Is definitely going to be ripped, and knitted. I want to spend some time playing around with that this afternoon. Plus, I have spinning withdrawal symptoms. I have a quick and dirty batch of merino mixed with something nearly finished as singles, the plying to do, and then back to the Carolina Homespun SOAR mix from last year, which is spinning up nicely. But I am maybe feeling like....fleece. I have plenty, after all.

Let's see what the weather does.